If you are new to Digital Marketing, inbound marketing and outbound marketing are some of the terms you will frequently hear as you start to implement marketing activities through digital tools and channels.

If you are just hearing about them for the first time don’t worry, the terms are not created to confuse you or anybody, these terms are used, just like in every other dealing, to describe two different types of marketing strategies that can be implemented using digital tools and channels.

In this post, we will look at what inbound marketing and outbound marketing are, we will also look at some major differences of them, means of implementing them and which can be more effective when it comes to digital marketing.

Continue reading to learn more about inbound marketing and outbound marketing.

What is inbound marketing?

Have you ever followed a link from a platform to another platform as you surf around the internet, maybe from Google or Facebook to website or blog, maybe that is how you came to this blog, that is a practical example of inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing which is also a part of the characteristics of content marketing, is a marketing strategy (mostly online), that involves attracting potential customers or web visitors mostly with valuable content from other sources or platforms to a platform.

As you surf around the internet you may come across posts with links that the description or title catches your attention or interest, maybe it’s about a trending topic or something you have been wanting to know more about, out of curiosity you may click on the link which leads you to another page or platform where the whole full content is served, if you have ever followed this process, then, you have been involved in the inbound marketing process.

Inbound marketing makes use of pull approach to marketing, it pulls potential customers in, build trust with them before selling to them. What this means is that when marketers use inbound marketing strategy they don’t try to sell something to you immediately, they first want to attract you, convert you into leads, build trust with you before selling or cross selling to you.

I hope you get the idea of inbound marketing? Now let’s learn about outbound marketing.

What is Outbound marketing?

Outbound marketing on the other hand is the opposite of inbound marketing, it’s a marketing strategy that focuses on selling to prospective customers in any given situation.

The objective of an outbound marketing campaign is always to pitch a prospective customers about a products or services anywhere the prospective customer is found.

For example, as you are driving or walking down a major road in your city, you may have observed some advertisements on billboards telling you how wonderful a particular product is, you can also find this sort of advertising in the newspapers, magazines, TV or radio, these sorts of marketing is known as outbound marketing.

Outbound marketing is not limited to traditional marketing channels, you will also find this sort of marketing campaign in online digital marketing channels like social media, search engines, email, etc.

The focus of outbound marketing is to pitch a potential customers about a product or services, outbound marketing campaign  always have sell intent, unlike inbound marketing that is concerned about building trust and establishing relationships with potential customers before selling to them.

Major differences between inbound marketing and outbound marketing

1. Inbound marketing is Permissive while outbound marketing is interrupting

Inbound marketing is Permissive in nature.

Marketers enjoy some levels of permission, before they start pitching potential customers products or services for sales.

Potential customers are not compelled to listen or view marketing campaign they are not interested in. Marketers first focus on content and resources that will interest the potential customer, build trust and relationship with potential customers before selling to them.

Outbound marketing is interrupting in nature.

You can observe this by those advertisements that interrupting your favourite show or program on TV or radio, or a salesman trying to pitch you about a product or service under the scorching sun, or the advert on a billboard in your neighbourhood, that is displaying the celebrity you don’t care to know whatever he or she is doing.

2. Inbound marketing allows effective Two-way communication while outbound marketing allows One-way communication

Inbound marketing allows Two-way communication.

Potential Customers can satisfy their curiosity by asking questions and receiving answers through tools and channels like comments, email and so on.

For example, when a marketer send you a product launch email after establishing a  level relationship with you, if there are things you don’t understand about the products, you can easily ask questions by using the reply button on emails to get more insight about product before committing your money to it.

Unlike outbound marketing, which is all about sending out the message, the chances of learning more or getting your questions answered are limited.

When an ad is aired on radio, TV or on online platforms if there’s something you didn’t understand about the ads, the chances of you connecting, asking questions and getting answers to your questions are limited.

3. Inbound marketing focuses on providing value before selling while outbound marketing provide little to no value before selling.

The major focus of inbound marketing is to provide potential customers valuable content in the form of articles, videos, pictures, ebooks, podcasts, images, infographics, books etc that will add value to them, value in nature of information, education and entertainment.

Outbound marketing in most cases is focused on providing information that will lead the potential customers to make buying decisions.

4. Inbound marketing uses pull tactics while outbound marketing uses push tactic.

Inbound marketing uses pull tactics. It pulls potential customers into a platform, nurture them before converting them to customers.

But outbound marketing uses push tactics. It’s always trying to convince potential customers to buy in any given situation.

Inbound and outbound marketing Implementation

To implement Inbound marketing, tools and channels like site/blog, search engines optimization, referrals, social media, email, etc can be used for inbound marketing strategy.

With a content marketing strategy, a post can be created and distributed or promoted on various platforms, which can trigger the process of gaining attention, attract and convert prospective customers into leads, which is part of the customer journey through inbound marketing.

These days, outbound marketing is mainly carried out through traditional marketing channels like TV, radio, telemarketing, billboards, Newspapers, Magazines, flyers etc

You will also observe some outbound marketing in online digital marketing channels like social media, blog/website, search engine or email.

Inbound or outbound, Which is more effective?

The kind of products or services that is been marketed will always have a major role to play in deciding which of the strategy to adopt in any given situation.

But the best way to predict the strategy that will be more effective in our current digital era is to use yourself as a case study, how do you wish to be marketed to?

Will you prefer someone whom you have little or no knowledge about to sell things to you? Or will you prefer someone whom you know and trust to sell to you?

These days, people want to do business with people they know and trust, but there are some products and services that need reach and initial transaction before trust and relationships can be established.

For example, as at the time of writing this post, I’m managing a boutique, the nature of the business requires that I show people what I have before they will show interest and decide whether to buy or not, I had to adopt the outbound marketing strategy, the strategy is to create some nice pictures of my collections and then use paid advertising from Facebook (An outbound marketing strategy) to reach more people and to establish connections and convert potential customers to customers. Inbound marketing can be applied to this business, but for now outbound marketing seem to be more effective.

But for a business offering services like law, inbound marketing might be the best strategy to adopt.

Using the strategy, you can create information or educative article about legal practice, publish it on your blog and page, promoting it using other available online and offline channels.

The article can attract potential customers to your platform and for some people after reading your article may trust you and decide to establish relationships with you, which might lead to you handling legal services for them in the future

Why I think inbound is more effective

Where people hang out

Outbound marketing used to be more effective when marketing was mostly implemented using traditional marketing channels like TV, Radio, billboards, magazines, etc.

Then people have few options of making decisions, mostly they rely on the marketing messages provided by the Marketers through these traditional marketing channels for making buying decisions.

Then prospective customers really don’t care about having a relationship with business or sellers and they only get to know if you are good if they test your offer.

But today everything is changing, the advancement in technologies and digital tools are changing the way people buy things, people now have access to the internet and the world wide web, these days customers prefer to make research or seek testimonials before committing their money to any transaction.

The change in how customers access information is making inbound marketing more of an effective marketing strategy.


Outbound marketing focuses on reaching large number of people through traditional and online marketing channels (like paid ads) but the challenge is that it focuses on reaching the entire audience including those who are not interested in the product or service that is advertised, lots of money can be spent reaching uninterested people with products and services.

This is unlike inbound marketing that always attract people who are interested in you business or brand.

Implementing inbound marketing strategy might take a lot of effort and resources but the ROI(return on investment)is always worth it.

By using the appropriate tools and channels online, like blogs, social media, email, SEO, etc. marketers spend less money in implementing inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing campaigns are created with the focused market in mind, contents and promotion are targeted to a specific audience unlike outbound marketing that target the entire audience.

Inbound marketing requires the understanding of its target market, their interest or problems, their behaviour, where they hang out etc, this is what helps in creating the right content that appeals to the right people, pull them in and hopefully convert them into customers.

It also allows marketers to know the right channels to explore in distributing the content, helping the marketer save cost and effort that might be invested using channels that will not yield results.

Final thought

Whether to adopt inbound marketing or outbound marketing will largely depend on the kind of products or services, the target customers for product or services, the objectives of the marketer and the budget for the marketing campaign.

But today, Marketers are adopting inbound marketing, also referred to as content marketing, mostly because of its cost-effective and high ROI (return on investment).

The advancement of internet and some technologies like ad blocker is making outbound marketing less effective and inbound marketing best option for marketers.

People spend much time online these days, marketers now use available inbound marketing tools and channels to reach the right people online without being restricted by cost and tools like ads blocker.

But this doesn’t make outbound marketing less useful, like i said earlier it all depends on the objectives of the marketer and the campaign, the two strategies can also be used simultaneously to achieve the overall marketing objectives.

I hope this post have helped you learn more about inbound marketing and outbound marketing.

If you have any questions, please ask in the comments section.

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Emmanuel Onyewuchi

Emmanuel Onyewuchi aka Digitalchuksemma is an Ex Computer Engr/Instructor turned Digital Mentor, a minimalist, Wished to be a father to 3 Kids from a loving wife. He founded the Digital Optimizers Hub in 2021 to fix the problem of an outdated educational system and lack of ICT and digital adaptability by young Africans. He has thought hundreds and Thousands of students ICT and digital skills in the classroom and online. Currently, he is the CEO and Lead Trainer at Learnvale,com, the new school online for the next breed of digital optimizers and is on the mission to help 100,000 people optimize digital tools and resources to build a thriving business that enables a freedom lifestyle.